Monday, 31 January 2011

Jellutong wood - Good or Bad?

After calling a number of wood mechants I still couldn't find a local source of Lime wood. The only other option I found is Jellutong which lucky one of the timber suppliers R.A. Bamptons in Southampton had in stock. Jellutong is a very nice carving wood similuar to Lime but the only issue is that it's harvested from rainforests where deforestation for timber is endangering a number of animal habitats in the process. It is one of the reasons why our workshop do not stock it anymore because of environmental issues.

'Jellutong grows in Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and southern Thailand. Along with balsa it is technically a hardwood with many similar properties such as the low density, straight grain and fine texture mean it is easy to work with.

In addition, jelutong can be tapped for latex and from the 1920s through the 1960s, jelutong latex was an important source of chewing gum. Sawdust from this species has been known to cause allergic dermatitis (inflammation, itchy rashes or irritation).

Jelutong has been traditionally overharvested, and is a threatened species in many areas. However, due to its quick growth, hardy survival, and strong replanting efforts, its extinction is unlikely. It is a protected species in parts of Malaysia and Thailand.'

As the extract says above Jellutong can cause some irritation to the skin. After working two weeks with it I have found the backs of my hands and fingers have become slightly irritated and itchy from the saw dust when carving. Washing my hands regularly and keeping them moisturized have now stop any irritation after working.

My personal views on Jellutong are at first I was just really glad I had found a local source of good carving wood after failing to find Lime. I'm It is a real joy to carve in and I believe I wouldn't have gotten the same results have not used in traditional wood and craft skills. But after reading up on Jellutong and its environment effects it leaves me with mixed feelings. I maybe low on morals but I want to use the best materials possible to bring my personal models to their full potential regardless of where they come from or how they are made. From a clients point of view though they may feel differently about the issues and I obviously would respect that and go about the project in a different manager. 

Wikipedia (2011) Dyera costulata - Jellutong [Online]. Availble from: [Accessed: 31 January 2011]

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

More inspirational images

I love the finish on this hand carved bear. After cutting out the object and removing most of the unneeded material a process called 'chipping' where single cuts with chisels and gouges is used to ruffly shape out the object. As you refine and start to add details the chipping marks become smaller and like in some of the marionettes I've analysed, the marks can be sanded down to a smooth finish. 
This is the exact finish I want to achieve on my final marionette. It gives this bear a true rustic feel particularly the way the paint has faded on the edges around the chisel marks, just like its been well handled over the years. I'm not going to be painting my puppet like this but maybe just a light coat of polish or wax. I'll have to test if a can still get the same effect.

In the picture above a woman's face has been carved straight into the trunk of a tree. This image shows the importance of remembering the depth of the face when carving. It can be very easy to carve the face flat as I might be working from a picture or drawing of a front view, you can tend to just recreate the flat picture. Obviously whoever carved this may have had problems checking depth when looking at its side and top profile but still managed to shape depth into the face.

Another Pinocchio character this time looks like its been carved from a block made from laminated boards/pieces, the different directions of grain especially after shaping will look very nice. If I cannot find a solid carving blank I will have to be aware of where the join marks show as I don't want one down the middle of my face. Also direction of the grain should be taken into account as it is easier and better finish to carve with the grain than against it.

More research analysis

Below are Emily Hubbard's head sculpts of Will Murray from our first year of Modelmaking. These are the best examples of the stylisation of the hair I want on my marionette as currently its not to similar to my own. 

This could easily be recreated in carving wood with certain deep gouges and V shaped tools to produce the same textured marks. Quite a lot of puppets I've looked at don't have much emphasis on hair. If you look at some of the examples in previous post most are bald or have little detail or are covered with hats. I think the finish on the hair will be very important to the character of my marionette as my hair is one of my most obvious characteristics. 
All credit to Emily Hubbard Copyright 2011 and stuff!/photo.php?fbid=10150347059855487&set=a.10150347058490487.582723.641340486

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Carving tutorials

I found a very helpful marionette carving tutorial on on a web site called Puppets in Prague. Professionals run workshops on building traditional Czech armatures as well as manipulation and performance.

Under the how to make puppets link there are a number of step by step guides on:
  • Preparing to start
  • Drawing - proportions and technical drawing
  • Cutting wood block
  • Cutting ruff puppet shape
  • Carving
  • Assembly
  • Costume
  • Tools - chisels, gouges and saws
I should also research into other types of wood masonry other than marionette carving like wood turning for example.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lime Wood Suppliers

Next stage to start researching into Lime wood suppliers and cost per carving blocks (or blanks is another common term used). Lime wood is a traditional carver's timber that is a kiln-dried european hard wood. With a yellowish-white to pale brown colour it is one of the softest of the hardwood family. Its fine grain is perfect for hand held carving but hard enough to work sharp detail into and when finished leaves a subtle texture. I came across a forum with a A-Z list of UK workshop wood suppliers.

Lime Wood merchants from -
A Harrison - Northants, NN15 5PB
Associated Timber Services Ltd - Lincolnshire, NG33 5LT
John Bradford - DEVON, EX11 1PU
Niche Timbers - Wakefield, WF2 9LP
North Heigham Sawmills Ltd. - Norfolk NR2 4TW
Robbins Timber - Bristol BS3 2UN

From the list the two suppliers below I can order Lime wood straight from their website and have it delivered the rest I will have to contact by phone to enquire about the prices of Lime carving blanks.

Ockenden Timber - Churchstoke,  SY15 6EB - supply and number of different sized blocks but only 51mm deep. Prices from £1.43 - £8.48

S.L.Hardwoods - Croydon CR0 2EA - only supply 200x100, 300x200, 450x300 but 80mm thick. Price - £7.74 (Exc VAT) They also stock 150mm thick and a good selection of carving tools.

I will also need to look into what types of different carving tools I will need and where I can pick them up from.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Texture from tools

These puppets below are from the production 'Or you could kiss me' by Neil Bartlett. The rod controlled marionettes were created by Handspring Puppet Company the makers behind the incredible War Horse.

These are a great example of using the tool marks to represent skin texture and the form of muscles even tendons and bone stucture under the skin. They are carved with confident single cuts that distinguish certain areas but also as a whole bring the character to life.
A perfect example of the kind of finish I want to achieve in my marionette. Of course these marks show the age of the character so I will use more subtle marks but still done with the same single confident cuts.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Research into Marionettes cont.

Found another good Czech website that specialize in wood carved marionettes. Compared to the website in the last post the puppet here are fully painted, which in my opinion can make them look too doll like and garish. You can buy puppets from a large collection or have them custom made from a photo. Here are just some of the past custom orders.

Bing Crosby

This marionette was created from a picture off a vinyl record cover. Looks like they produced a plastoline sculpt first to get the character right. This could help me a lot as  haven't wood carved before having a visual form in front of me to reference from should aid me in getting the right proportions and character through.

Barrack Obama
Vodafone Advert
These marionettes were for an Egyptian Vodafone commercial which is broadcasted in almost all middle east countries. I like these characterised puppets because I can see the people they are based on. This would be another option if i decide not to recreate myself realistically.